In their highly anticipated rematch, UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will attempt to “commit ill” on Australian Robert Whittaker.
Israel Adesanya, the UFC middleweight champion, is looking forward to his next opportunity to defeat his closest competitor, whom he claims he “doesn’t like as a person.”
The Nigerian-born New Zealander will take on Robert Whittaker at UFC 271 on Sunday, February 13, showing the two finest competitors in the middleweight category.
Since reclaiming the middleweight title from Whittaker in 2019, Adesanya has been unstoppable. When they first met, he got the best of the Australian, knocking him down and then knocking him out in a dominant unification contest.
When they meet again, the 32-year-old will be the favourite to defend his championship. Adesanya believes he has a mental advantage over Whittaker following that convincing victory.
“I do have the upper hand because I’ve already beaten him,” Adesanya told news.com.au.
“I’ve done it in this reality. I feel like I do and that gives me motivation enough to make it an even better showing for the next one because I’ve already beaten this guy twice in one fight.”
Adesanya eager to “commit ill” on Whittaker
It’s no secret that Adesanya and Whittaker don’t get along. The rivalry between the two rivals dates back to their first meeting, which Adesanya dominated in front of a raucous crowd at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium.
Whittaker referenced the fighters’ respective nicknames, The Reaper (Whittaker) and The Last Stylebender (Whittaker), in an Instagram joke portraying the Grim Reaper next to the character Bender from the TV show Futurama (Adesanya).
It was an innocuous move, but Adesanya, who confesses he wants to “commit some ill” on Whittaker in the octagon, didn’t like it.
“It started with a meme he made, I just thought that was out of character,” he said of his dislike of Whittaker.
“To be honest, I don’t really have any ill feels towards the guy, I just don’t like him as a person. I don’t wish ill on him but I get to commit some ill on him.
“Why don’t I like him? Because I have to fight him. I don’t have to like him.”
Adesanya’s most recent fight occurred in June of last year, when he successfully defended his middleweight title against Marvin Vettori.
While it has been a while since he has fought, the Kiwi says he has been training hard for the past few months and is looking forward to showing off some “new tricks” in the ring.
“It’s been fun,” Adesanya said.
“This has been a refreshing camp, one that I got to just learn some new tricks and revise some old tricks. I’ve been having fun.
“It’s given me more time to learn and upgrade and take time off. I’ve just stayed in shape the whole time. I haven’t really gotten out of shape. This is the best I’ve ever come into a camp, put it that way. I’ve just stayed training.
“This is art, this is fun for me. So I’ll go in there and enjoy myself. I feel like. It’ll just be another classic performance.”
The bout between the two Oceania combatants was supposed to take place in New Zealand, but due to Covid-related issues, it will instead take place in Houston, Texas.
“I wanted the fight to be in New Zealand because last time was in his backyard, this time it (would be) in my backyard,” Adesanya said.
“But unfortunately, the world we live in right now a lot is restricted so Texas is a good substitute.”
Adesanya’s next ambition is to “lap” the middleweight division by defeating every fighter in his way. He is now ranked third best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC.
He stepped up a weight class to light heavyweight in 2021, but lost his debut MMA fight to Jan Bachowicz. For the time being, Adesanya has put his dream of being a two-division champion on hold.
“It’s just a side mission,” he said.
“I’m going to lap my division (middleweight) again and it’s just a side mission. That’s the immediate future plan.”
Adesanya also expressed his support for heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, who lambasted the UFC for handing him an insufficient contract for his win against Ciryl Gane last weekend, which paid him US$600,000 (A$840,000).
Ngannou, Adesanya agreed, was grossly underpaid.
“I mean, the guy shouldn’t be getting paid $600,000 per fight, that’s ridiculous especially after a massive performance like that,” he said.
“To get paid $600,000, no. He’s spoken on it. You should listen to Ngannou, listen to what he says about it.”